10 November 2011
In Kung Fu Panda 2 Shifu tells Po about the worst day of his life, the day that Po was proclaimed Dragon Warrior. But then he realized that the problem wasn't Po's but his own. Taking responsibility he found inner peace and was able to harness the flow of the universe.
When shifu let go of the "thought construct" that Po was at fault he was able to stop thinking.
Thinking is one of two main modes that our brain can switch between. The other mode is a sensory control mode where we can focus on using our senses and controlling our body. This other mode, the doing mode is when we let thoughts go and instead focus on what is happening now.
Dividing the functions of the brain into two main types thinking mode and doing mode can be handy becuase it gives us a way of recognizing what mode we are in.
Are these two modes mutually exclusive? I mean do can we only be doing one or the other?
Yes and no. To a certain extent I believe most of us most of the time are doing a little bit of both. However, there is only a certain amount of processing power available. Call this processing power consciousness. The more we use on thinking the less we can use to sense and control and vice versa.
At the ultimate limit we can be totally absorbed in using our senses and responding to what we sense. This is where we can harness the flow of the universe. Or we can be totally absorbed in imaginary space, thinking about things we've done or would like to do. Or we could be thinking about things that bug us about other people.
I'd suggest that in general the ability to think is a valuable skill however it can get a life of its own such as when we start to focus on the faults of others. This is probematic because there is nothing we can do about others. The only thing that we can truly control is ourselves.
These types of thoughts (blaming others) can make it difficult to slip into a mode of sensing and doing. Or so we think. It may be possible that in the same way we can tune out what is around ourselves while thinking about something that has snagged our attention, we can also tune out thoughts by focusing on what is around us now.
The nice thing about sensing and doing is that we sense what is happening now. We can sense things at the earliest possibility and we can act on what we sense. For martial artists this can be a valuable skill to have since they can then sense what their opponent is about to do as she or he is about to do it. They can then counter that action as it occurs.
If you are busy thinking instead of focusing on what is happening now, you'll notice things but it will be late or worse too late. Present you can see a punch before it is even begun however if all of a sudden you start day dreaming or thinking about how much this was someone elses fault or even your own, you only see the punch as it arrives at your face, too late to do anything about it.
Shifu talks about the flow of the universe. If we view the flow as a river, or as an ocean with waves passing by we can either be standing at the side watching the waves to by or we can be riding those waves letting them carry us to where we want to do.
"Watching waves pass by" could be akin to thinking while riding the waves would be akin to doing. The waves themselves could be thought of as waves of time.
When we think we watch time go by when we do we are riding the waves of time and as such the flow of time ceases to matter, because we are using it to carry us.
The flow of time is actually just the passage of energy. And this energy carries us and all that is around us. And it can drive what we are doing. By riding this wave we get a chance to see how it affects all that is around us. By tuning into this wave, (and we do this by being present, by not thinking) we can learn to sense what changes are happening now. We may even be able to see changes before they occur.
An analogy would be driving in traffic and being aware at each moment in time being aware in which direction each vehicle is going and at the same time knowing the speed at which it is travelling. Tuning in to traffic in this way you can see gaps before they appear. And so you can go into those gaps before they appear simply because you are paying attention to what is happening now. A similar thing can happen in any interaction whether fighting or dancing. By being aware of what is happening now you can get a sense of what is going to happen in the next instant and you can be ready to take advantage of that foresight.
That is how you harness the flow of the universe. And you do it by not thinking.
You do it by focusing your senses on what is happening now.